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Democrats nudge reluctant Butterworth on CFO race

Qualifying week for state offices starts today, and Democrats hold out hope that they will have a viable candidate for chief financial officer before Friday's deadline. So far, incumbent Republican Insurance Commissioner Tom Gallagher is the only candidate.

Of course, the Democrats' dream candidate is the same one that many of them wanted to run for governor: retiring Attorney General Bob Butterworth, who has shown no interest in mounting another statewide campaign. Still, several Democrats at the gala in Fort Lauderdale Saturday urged Butterworth to challenge Gallagher.

As usual, Butterworth was noncommittal. "I will look at it," he said. "I owe it to my supporters."

Janet Reno's connections to the Clinton administration help her with the Democratic base, but how much support does she have from the old Clinton camp? Former Clinton strategist James Carville conspicuously avoided sticking up for Reno last week on CNN's Crossfire with Robert Novak. He sounded mighty enthusiastic about Tampa lawyer Bill McBride.

Novak: "Janet Reno is absolutely a terrible candidate for governor of Florida. Now it turns out she doesn't even have enough money . . . . Could (McBride) beat Janet Reno (in the primary)? Republicans are praying she survives the primary."

Carville: "Let me tell you, McBride is a serious guy, and he's got a lot of money in the bank. And I think . . ."

Novak: "You don't love Janet . . ."

Carville: "I like them both. . . . I'm just saying the man is a serious guy, and they've got them coming down to the stretch here."

Some state legislators are busy running for re-election while others are planning their departure from the stage. That doesn't affect which legislators will attend national conventions in Denver, New Orleans and Orlando in the coming weeks.

House and Senate members will trek to Denver this week for the National Conference of State Legislatures. The travelers to Denver include term limited Sens. Don Sullivan, R-St. Petersburg; Ron Silver, D-North Miami Beach; and Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach. Maybe they'll all learn something useful for life after the Legislature.

State Sen. Daryl Jones of Miami, who is far behind Reno and Tampa lawyer Bill McBride for the Democratic nomination for governor, may yet get some badly needed exposure. Organizers of the primary's lone televised debate next month haven't invited Jones to participate because he's well below 10 percent in opinion polls.

But Florida Democratic Party Chairman Bob Poe has asked the debate organizers to include Jones.

Perhaps Jones will show off his musical skills. At Saturday's Jefferson-Jackson gala in Fort Lauderdale, he concluded his speech to Democrats with a rap number about why he should be governor.

For Republican attorney general candidate Locke Burt, there's no place like home _ rival Charlie Crist's home. Burt, an Ormand Beach state senator, was the guest of honor at a fundraiser held last week by some of Pinellas County's most prominent Republicans: state senators Jack Latvala and Don Sullivan and Sheriff Everett Rice. Pinellas County, of course, is home base for Crist, the state education commissioner, who is also running for attorney general in the Sept. 10 Republican primary.

There may have been only one person in a dress taller than Reno at "Janet Reno's Dance Party" Friday night in South Beach. Elaine Lancaster, a transvestite whose big hair gave her a height of almost 7 feet, waxed on to reporters about Reno's campaign for governor.

"Our current administration lacks ladies," said Lancaster, who wore a Grecian-style dress but thought Reno "looks great in black."

Asked how her endorsement might play outside South Beach, Lancaster noted that she hails from Plant City.

_ Times staff writers Lucy Morgan, Adam C. Smith and Alisa Ulferts were on spin patrol. Send tips, thoughts, suggestions to